A lot has been written and said over the last 100 years regarding what is the meaning and function of education in a modern person’s life. Is it simply functional (to make money; hold a job; be academically, socially, and professionally appropriate) or is it enrichment (to engage, inspire, elevate self-worth and human compassions over the breadth of the life span), or is society’s academic fulfillment (the advancement of society through scientific and intellectual discovery and growth) the real function of education?
Education has been called an economic investment, a path to the future, and an asset to industry and national security. Education has been task with many solutions to various problems, but in the 21st century I think education is essentially just a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE (CX). Educators must attend to the student’s experiences to be successful!
Education once consisted of the “3-R’s,” that was Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic. These essential skills then became the foundation of all later knowledge and the organizing structure for most of what one knew. But now the world seems to have changed and expanded in its dimension and speed since simpler times. With more and faster changes, our ideas of what education needs to be in the primary and secondary years has grown and become more complicated as well. Today’s public schooling requirements have become so overwhelming and disconnected-from-reality for many people that by the time one reaches their high school years, almost half of all students will choose to abandon traditional education and simply drop out of school; eventually perhaps acquiring a GED over a diploma. Whether it benefits them or not, modern students simply don’t “like” going to school.
Education is changing. Technologies such as fast computers, touch screens, interactive technologies, the internet, have changed everything. I got a science undergrad degree in the 1980’s and we did research, but our data was created by hand and analyzed manually on big paper spreadsheets. The human mind was the main computational device then. I never learned anything about “coding,” or programming. Today, many 3rd graders use Excel to collect and analysis data in class, and then write code for math class. They routinely use research skills I was not even exposed to until college, and are using many different technology tools like “natives.” So education has changed drastically in just a few years, and the needs and choices of our students have grown exponentially too.
Today, students require “buy-in” and ownership of their learning choices and methods to be successful in school. To be educated for the future, students need to learn in ways that have been mostly overlooked by traditional educators. Today’s students are masterful consumers of electronics, media, social media, free resources, expert opinions and reviews; as well as being regularly exposed to the worst in scams, marketing, and con artists! Today’s students are much more than passive participants. The are psychologically primed to engage in reality in many different forms; physical, virtual, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, and individually personalized.
Consider, that students must be personally engaged and interested in something to benefit by it. They clearly gain more from the experience if they are relaxed and having fun. Today’s students are better “risk-takers” to new learning when they feel safe and at ease in their environment, and when they are given many more choices along the learning path. Consider that most students are highly engaged in many social activities by age 5, and most between age 8 and 18 learn more effectively from their peers.
Education today requires more flexibility and individual choices than ever before; it requires teachers and schools to provide up-to-date materials, technology, and classroom environments for success, it requires integration of assistive technology, and reduction in standardized tests. Students today need accurate and timely feedback and assessments to learn from mistakes can help them address mastery and correct their know-how. Students today need discussions, not lectures; they need hands-on projects, not textbook quizzes; they need integration of team work into their daily schedule, not homework. Children don’t require enforcers, they do require fair consequences and many second chances.
More than ever before in history, education and educators can help students have empowered lives by building and strengthening their personal paths to autonomous learning, and by recognizing that each learners’ path is unique, diverse, not-often-straight, and vitally important to us all.
*The Customer’s Experience in the Educational Environment is Paramount to Learning
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